Senate Votes to Keep Earmarks; Eight GOP Senators Join Democratic Majority (Update: GOP 'Young Gun' Reacts)
Writing in the Washington Post today, Speaker-to-be John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that federal spending is an area where Democrats and Republicans can work together:
When congressional leaders of both parties meet at the White House today, all of us will have an opportunity to show the American people that we got the message of the elections earlier this month.
Republicans heard the voters loud and clear. They want us to focus on preventing a tax hike on every taxpayer, reining in Washington spending and making it easier for employers to start hiring again. Today, Republican leaders renew our offer to work with anyone, from either party, who is ready to focus on the priorities of the American people.
And how right the GOP leaders were: Today, eight Republicans in the Senate joined the Democratic majority in voting to keep their earmark spending power. Working together! Those eight senators are:
Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), James Inhofe (Okla.), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Richard Shelby (Ala.) voted against an amendment to food-safety legislation that would have enacted a two-year ban on the spending items. Retiring Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio) and defeated Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah) also voted against it.
Most of the names on that list are no surprise. Neither Bennett nor Voinovich had the conservative stones, or gene, or whatever to make any tough decisions on spending. Thankfully, both are out the door once the lame-duck session is over. Collins and Lugar have always had their squishy sides; again it's little surprise that they voted for earmarks. Lugar does stand for re-election in 2012, though, so this vote likely earned him a primary challenge. Murkowski was handed her seat by her father and is the evident write-in winner of the AK Senate race; she is not a strong conservative and is actively hated by the Tea Party, which actively loathes big-spending Washington politicians. That's why they voted for Joe Miller in the AK GOP primary.
But Inhofe, Cochran, and Shelby's votes are dissapointing, to say the least.
Inhofe's argument in favor of retaining earmark power boils down to this:
Why? Because instead of reducing the federal budget, it will empower Obama administration bureaucrats to spend the funds members of Congress would have sent home through earmarks. Also, last year's earmarks accounted for 1.5% of discretionary spending. Where's the focus on the other 98.5%? Earmarks are nothing more than a distraction from the real spending and debt crisis facing our nation.
Cochran's and Shelby's positions amount to the same logic. All three are champion earmarkers.